Massive funding boost for New Zealand beef genetics research

In a landmark trans-Tasman collaboration, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics and Meat and Livestock Australia are committing a total of $5.2m towards major joint beef research projects.

New Zealand beef genetics research is about to get a ‘shot in the arm’, thanks to a landmark trans-Tasman collaboration.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Genetics and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) are committing a total of $5.2m over three years towards major joint beef research projects. All projects within the collaboration – regardless of which side of the Tasman they fall on – will be overseen by B+LNZ Genetics.

B+LNZ Genetics general manager Graham Alder says the collaboration means every $1 of New Zealand farmer levy investment translates to $3.50 of research funding.

“The R&D needs of New Zealand and Australian producers are well aligned. It makes sense for scientists on both sides of the Tasman to work together to solve common problems.

“New Zealand beef genetics research has been under-funded for 30 years. This partnership means research can progress and the results communicated out to breeders and commercial farmers many years earlier. For Australia, it means faster progress and an opportunity to advance projects that may not have been otherwise gone ahead.”

The partnership centres around the Trans-Tasman Beef Cow Profitability Programme, which aims to balance desirable maternal traits in beef cows, with the finishing performance of the calves and their ability to meet quality carcase specifications.

The programme will develop genetic measures for better describing the important physical attributes of the cow (such as size, body condition and her ability handle fluctuations in feed availability), fertility indicators in heifers, and selection tools for easy decision-making. It will also investigate how different environments and farm systems in both countries impact on the balance of traits required to produce an economically efficient cow.

This research will also help underpin advancements in genomic technology.

Who is involved? In Australia: the University of Adelaide (Professor Wayne Pitchford) and the University of New England’s Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (Dr Robert Banks and Dr Matt Wolcott). In New Zealand: AbacusBio (Dr Jason Archer) and Massey University (Professor Dorian Garrick). Commercial beef farmers and bull breeders will also be heavily involved, along with Angus New Zealand and the New Zealand Hereford Association.

The research will draw on existing projects already underway in commercial farm settings. In New Zealand, B+LNZ Genetics’ Beef Progeny Test and Maternal Cow Project will feed into the research. In Australia, inclusion of the Angus Sire Benchmarking Programme and Hereford Progeny Test are being considered by the respective breed associations, with solid initial interest.

The programme kicked off with a joint meeting of Australian and New Zealand beef breeders, farmers and science providers on 14/15 November in Albury-Wodonga.

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